There’s nothing simple about being a victim’s advocate. The work is often stressful, emotions run off the charts and you never know from day to day what will happen next. But, all that doesn’t matter as long as you’re lending a hand to someone in need.
Often times, a victim’s advocate grows emotionally close and even attached to the person or persons they assist. Sometimes it’s to the point that you cry when they cry, and you rejoice when they rejoice and you’re depressed when they’re depressed. But when you reflect back on what you’re doing, every tear is worth it.
One of the most important things to remember, as a victim’s advocate, despite how close you become to the victim or to their situation, is to not lose sight of your goal and how you’re going to obtain that goal.
Some things to remember:
Never tell a victim you know how they feel – unless you truly do. For example, if you’re working with a family who has a missing loved one, unless you have a missing loved one as well, don’t tell them you know what they’re going through because you truly don’t.
Never tell a victim they need to move on. Those words can be piercing to someone who has been subjected to a crime whether it be rape or a missing loved one. In these situations, remember that each person heals differently and what is healthy and works for one victim doesn’t always work for another.
Never tell a victim that they are going to get closure. Closure to you might carry an entirely different meaning than it does to the person you are assisting. Closure isn’t something that any person is guaranteed in any situation that involves a crime.
Never ignore them. You may very well be the only person that really listens to them. Ignoring them may cause them even more insecurities than they are already suffering. If you know you aren’t going to be able to help them as much as they need, don’t take on the task. It’s better for them to find someone else to help them that can be there for them when they need it.
Never make it about yourself – it’s not about you. You are there to help them and to help their family in a multitude of ways. You’re not there to air your problems to them.
Never speak to the media without their permission. As a victim’s advocate you are often privy to information that is not meant for the public and you are not entitled to speak to the media on their behalf unless you are asked to do so.
Never ask for money for what you do. Unless you are in a paid position as a victim’s advocate don’t expect, ask for or accept money for what you do. Most victims’ advocates are passionate about what they do and do not expect to be paid for their assistance.
Most of all, never forget why you do what you do. Being a victim’s advocate can be very rewarding in that you’re using your abilities to help someone who is suffering through a terrible time in their life. The satisfaction of knowing that you have helped someone through a tragic situation is reward enough for most victims’ advocates. If it’s not, you’re in the wrong business.